Patrick Zimmerli: Phoenix (2005)
On his sixth release, New York-based composer and saxophonist Patrick Zimmerli hybridizes the sounds of a jazz quartet with a string quartet, adding a gentle dose of samples and electronics and spicing it all up with popular and ethnic elements. Phoenix, Zimmerli's fourth release for the Vancouver based Songlines label, attempts to integrate these styles into what he calls "pan-stylistic art music," but he succeeds only partially.
Zimmerli enlisted a string quartet for this project that's led by violinist Scott Yoo, Music Director of the Metamorphosen Chamber Orchestra. He also recruited pianist Kevin Hays, who has worked with Joe Henderson and Sonny Rollins and recorded before with Zimmerli; fretless electric bassist Stomu Takeishi, who's played with Myra Melford, Erik Friedlander, and Satoko Fujii; and Stomu's brother, percussionist Satoshi Takeishi, who handles all the samples and electronics, and who has played with such diverse musicians as Anthony Braxton and Paul Winter. The Takeishi brothers played on Zimmerli's Explosion (Songlines, 1997) and Expansion (Songlines, 2000).
Zimmerli's stated aim of creating sonically appealing and aesthetically viable compositions that defy traditional definitions of styles brings some of his pieces into the territory of bland smooth jazz. Such is the case in the sample-based groove of "Away From You." His understated reading of Vinicius de Morales and Antonio Carlos Jobim's standard "How Sensitive" is done in an overly sweet way as well. His use of electronics and samples is figurative, as on "Clouds and Machines," where the mechanical rhythm is used only as distant color. The use of piano and electronic beats on "Gnosis Crisis," together with the string quartet, sounds like a less substantial version of one of Matthew Shipp's collaborations with Flam.
Zimmerli does better on the long suite "Wunderlichen Stadt," where the string quartet creates some drama, and much better on "Breath," where all the elements interlock brilliantly. On "Beginning," the musicians do not try to deliver an easily accessible sound, and they succeed in creating a menacing atmosphere. But too often you get the feeling that these compositions work best as moody soundscapes that cannot stand by themselves. Unfortunately, Zimmerli did not promote his new vision far enough to make Phoenix a truly captivating musical document.
Track Listing: M; Away From Home; Wunderlichen Stadt; How Insensitive; Clouds And Machines; The Bird Dances; Breath; M; Feel; Gnosis Crisis; Only Surround; Beginning; Summer Passes; M.
Personnel: Patrick Zimmerli: composer, soprano saxophone; Scott Yoo: violin I; Yoon-Kyung Kwon: violin II; Kevin Hays: piano; Maurycy Banaszek: viola; Stomu Takeishi: fretless electric bass; Inbal Segev: cello; Satoshi Takeishi: percussion, drum programming, electronics.